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The Environmentalist

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 336–337 | Cite as

A. John, An enthusiasm for orchids: sex and deception in plant evolution

Oxford University Press, Inc. Oxford, England, 302 pp, ISBN-13 978-0-19-518274-3, $35.00 (American)
  • Peter Bernhardt
Book Review
  • 68 Downloads

Spring arrives in western Australia by the end of August and the shrubby vegetation is colorful and richly perfumed. Some native orchids, though, are brownish or dull-maroon in color, the human nose fails to pick up any fragrance. The strange shapes of the flowers give them such common names as warty hammers (Drakaea), flying ducks (Paracaleana), lazy spiders (Caladenia) and elbow orchids (Arthrochilus). While we smell nothing, these orchids release odors irresistible to many species of wasps. The winged males mistake sculptures and patterns on the lip petals for the bodies of virginal and wingless females. As a lovesick insect backs out of the flower, a plug of sticky pollen globs is deposited on his back. If the same wasp visits a second flower of the same species then cross-pollination occurs and seeds are fertilized although the deceived insect fathers no offspring during this process. More than 40 orchid species found in Western Australia fool male wasps. Why is...

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologySt. Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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